Colombian women use sex strike to hold government accountable during road repair, 2013

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Timing
Time Period:  
late April
2013
to
early October
2013
Location and Goals
Country: 
Colombia
Location City/State/Province: 
Barbacoas
Goals: 
The Colombian women took action to hold the government accountable to its 2011 promise to repair the road to Barbacoas.
 

At the start of the 21st century, the remote town of Barbacoas, in southern Colombia, was connected to the rest of the region by only one roadway. This 57 km highway between Barbacoas and the nearest town, Junin, was in major disrepair and could take between 14 and 24 hours to travel. Due to political instability, guerilla warfare by the FARC and other nongovernmental paramilitary groups, and the remoteness of the region, the government failed to maintain the condition of the highway and let it fall into disrepair. Through mudslides and other disturbances, most of the road surfaces were completely washed away, leaving the highway a bare mud track. Four different engineering firms were brought in to work on the road between 2002 and 2009, but each group pulled out of the contract because of FARC attacks.

Around a dozen people had died in ambulances stranded on this road, en route to hospitals in the regional capital of Pasto. Notable among these deaths were the deaths of mothers in need of medical supervision during childbirth. In 2011, a group of women in Barbacoas launched a campaign to urge local and national government officials to repair the road. They selected Lysistratic non-action (also called a sex strike) as their primary tactic, declaring publicly that because it was not possible for mothers in labor to receive appropriate medical care, they could not risk becoming pregnant. The strike of the “Crossed Legs Movement” began on June 22nd*, with at least 300 women participating. The strike lasted 3 months and 19 days. Women called off the strike on 11 October 2011, after the government pledged to put $21 million into the repair project. [For more information on the 2011 strike, see additional GNAD, “Colombians use sex strike to get highway repaired (Huelga de piernas cruzadas), 2011.”]

However, problems quickly arose, as delays in acquiring construction materials and equipment stalled work on the highway reconstruction project. There are also reports that at some time in 2011, guerilla fighters killed a soldier involved in the construction project. The work on the highway quickly ground to a halt, and for almost two years there was no progress on the construction.

In late April 2013, women in Barbacoas launched a second “Crossed Legs” campaign. Reports from 30 April include declarations by women who were resuming the direct action in order to protest additional deaths of expectant mothers on the still-unpaved mud road. This time, protesters focused not only on obtaining government funding pledges but also on ensuring those promises would be fulfilled. Many reports of strike participation from this date estimate approximately 300 participants—about the same number as the 2011 campaign had had.

After four months of strike action and increasing pressure from local politicians, the Army announced on 10 October 2013 that Army engineers were actively repaving the road and had brought in bulldozers and other equipment to demonstrate their commitment to the project. Lieutenant Colonel Ricardo Roque reported that repairs were complete on 5 miles of road and nearly complete for a further 11 of the 34 miles of highway that needed rebuilding, but that the $21 million that had been previously allocated for the project had been spent. Roque announced that construction would not begin on the other half of the road until the government allocated a further $53 million. Without continued funding, the project stalled once again.

While there are reports that some women vowed to continue the strike until the final mile of road was completely paved, it is not known whether these individuals are representative of the campaigners as a whole, nor is there evidence of the strike’s continuation after this point. There are no reports of additional action following the 10 October statements from Lieutenant Colonel Roque.**

Research Notes
Influences: 

Women in Barbacoas were influenced by earlier protests in Colombia in the 1990s and early 2000s, and were specifically launching a new campaign to continue the campaign they began with their 2011 sex strike. (1)

Sources: 
Editor, The Daily Drudge Report. Women in Colombia are on a sex strike for this Civic Cause. TheDailyDrudgeReport.com. 25 October 2013.

Editorial Nariño. Mujeres de huelga de sexo vuelven a protestar por vía de Barbacoas. ElTiempo.com 30 April 2013. Accessed via Google Translate (Spanish to English function), 27 March 2014.

Jaafari, Shirin. In one Colombian town, women say no to sex until their demands are met. PRI.org. 22 October 2013. Text and audio recording.

Liu, Nancy. Colombians use sex strike to get highway repaired (Huelga de piernas cruzadas), 2011. Global Nonviolent Action Database. 12 November 2011.

Otis, John. In Colombia, no sex till the road’s fixed—Women find nothing gets things done like a “crossed-leg” protest. GlobalPost Beats: North America. 5 November 2013.

QColombia.com. Women in Colombia go on sex strike! Originally published at QColombia.com. Accessed via redirected link to TodayColombia.com on 29 March 2014. 26 October 2013.

Schwiegershausen, Erica. Sex Strike in Colombia sees result. New York Magazine online edition. 23 October 2013.

Staff, The Sun. “Around 300 women have gone on a sex strike until a dangerous road is repaired in remote Barbacoas, Colombia, where several people have died because of ambulances getting stuck.” News brief, The Sun. 27 October 2013.

Volckhausen, Taran. Southwest Colombia sex strike successful as Army repairs road.” ColombiaReports.co. 11 October 2013.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Mar Firke 30/03/2014